Okinawa delays reversal on base landfill work as Tokyo pauses ahead of poll to replace Onaga


The Okinawa Prefectural Government on Friday postponed withdrawing its approval for landfill work needed to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from Ginowan to Nago.

The development came after the central government put off the start of earth-filling work in Henoko, a coastal district in Nago where the base is being moved to. The work was to begin on Friday, sources familiar with the situation said.

On July 27, Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga, in a last-ditch bid to block the unpopular U.S.-Japan relocation plan, began procedures to cancel the approval for the work granted by his predecessor. Onaga, who fiercely opposed the heavy presence of U.S. bases in Okinawa, died of cancer on Aug. 8.

Vice Gov. Moritake Tomikawa, the interim governor, said Monday that the prefecture will follow Onaga’s wishes and withdraw the landfill approval before Tokyo gets to work.

But Tomikawa has declined to say when the approval will be canceled, citing strategic reasons. A senior official in the prefectural government said Friday that approval would be withdrawn this week.

Although the central government cited bad weather as a reason for postponing the landfill work, it is actually concerned about the negative impact it might have on the gubernatorial election on Sept. 30 to select Onaga’s successor, informed sources said.

A senior central government official said Friday that the landfill work will remain on hold for the time being.